The Unpassable Page Rank Penalty

Source Title:
Sites That do not Pass on PR
Story Text:

There seems to be a lot of speculation today about Google hand penalising some sites which are selling PR but are too 'important' to be dropped from the index and so are just being punished by having their PR not pass via external links.

IMO this is a classic poorly thought out conspiracy theory/rumour. What would be the point in penalising sites and not telling anyone, leaving their toolbar PR so they can still make money by selling the links and allowing internal PR to still work? The thread's a fun read though as people defend their POV's.

The reason SitePoint, rather than Spider-food or anyone else, made me post this, is that just when you start getting to the point where you're going to stop reading the thread turns into a great discussion about exactly how and how much PR passes between sites.

So - paranoia and advanced maths in one thread. You may need beer and popcorn for this one.


Now Being Handed Out? LOL!

If anyone believes that Google doesnt manually ban sites from passing pagerank, they need to talk to me. Google has been doing it for years.

How do I know this? I know this because we currently have, and have had for years, thousands of sites in our inventory that sell links.

Google has been PR blocking sites for as long as textlinkbrokers has been in business, Mid 2003. I know this as a fact. We have had our own sites blocked, we have seen other sites get blocked, and we have had inventory partners sites get blocked. We have had to take several sites out of our inventory for recieving a pagerank block. Its usually the site that go against our suggestions and "oversell" their link inventory or do one of the many other things that are sure to get you penalized.

Why does Google block pagerank from passing rather then block the pagerank from showing altogether? The reason goes back to the time when SearchKing sued them for completly banning thousands of sites in the Searchking network (one of the first link selling networks). They banned the sites pagerank both inbound and outbound. The result was a huge media frenzy showcasing mom and pop sites that lost all of their income because Google Banned them. They estimated tens of millions of dollars were lost due to the banning, maybe more. I still remember the frontpage article on USA Today. Searchking had no choice but to sue Google to protect themselves from getting sued.

The solution found by Google was to only penalize the outbound pagerank of sites that are found to sell links. With this solution the mom and pop website would still recieve traffic from Google and no-one would be any the wiser or worse off, except if they wanted to profit from selling PR. Its a very clever solution because they can pull it off and without too much press and they knew that there would always be "people" that didnt believe that it happened, since it is harder to show outbound pagerank being blocked. Hard, but definitly not impossible.

Anybody that has been involved with text links for a long period of time can atest to the truth that they do penalize sites outbound PR.

Jarrod Hunt
Text Link "knowitall" :)

OK - I need to talk to you :)

Why would Google not simply ditch the PR on the offending site? Then it clearly wouldn't pass pagerank and could no longer sell it - thus actively discouraging PR selling. Why on earth would they do it in secret?

I can totally see the argument for hand applied penalties for selling PR but this is a really strange way to do it.

Lets talk ;)

Ditching the PR would make it too obvious what it is they are doing. It's a visible sign of a penalty. People will unknowingly buy links on sites that dont work. They will then see no benefit from the bought links and they will give up on buying links altogether. Exactly what Google wants. If People can see which sites work because of the pagerank bar, then they will continue buying links. Google would never be able to keep up with the manual banning

Someone really smart wrote the other day, I think it was on Awall's site, that the smartest thing Google can do is to keep people guessing. People will drive themselves nuts over what works and what doesnt. This makes it impossible for SEO's, or at least the impatient ones.


in addition

Google does not want bad press. Banning too many sites would cause too many people to talk. Google does not want people talking about how it has to "manually" ban sites, it would rather do things within an automated algorithm.

Then there is the whole lawsuit thing. It's really hard to prove Google blocked your site when there are no visible signs. These lawsuits would undoubtably be frivoulous but its a lawsuit none-the-less. The do not want a repeat of the SearchKing incident.


Well I'm bowing to your way superior knowledge of PR and linking. But still....

Lawsuits; what would people sue for even if they could prove they don't have PR? - so Google don't allocate PR to a site. And? it's not even dropping them from the SERPS, everyone knows the 'entertainment purposes' quote, and it's Googles PR to do what they like with. I doubt any lawyer would give that one a go.

Yeah OK someone would I'm sure but it would be laughed out of court (unless the case was brought in France)

I'd guess also that most of those people who buy text links from sites because they have high PR and without also checking that the broker is reputable etc etc are probably people who will never know what benefit a specific link purchase has brought them? You buy 1000 links, how are you going to tell that some of them didn't pass PR, and if none of them do you'll notice but you'll probably think it was a sandbox penalty.

That might be win win for Google but I still think it's less win than making it explicit.

To be honest people seem perfectly able to come up with wild speculation and rumour without Google having to actually be doing anything. If they're going to bother to actually do stuff you'd think they'd want people to see the hurt.


Like you said, People would sue, There are some crazy people out there that have lots of money to blow on stupid lawsuits, I.E. They will sue on the grounds that Google is impeding them from monetizing their sites, or that their reputation is being hurt becuase of the loss of PR. Redicoulous.

Yes, you are also correct when you say that people will continue to purchase links regardless if some of them dont work because they will never know which ones are working or not. I wrote an article a long time ago warning people about this

To be honest people seem perfectly able to come up with wild speculation and rumour without Google having to actually be doing anything. If they're going to bother to actually do stuff you'd think they'd want people to see the hurt.

I couldnt agree with your last statement more. Yes, people who dont know, love to speculate. Google knows this too which is why they do things that fan the flames, like create a time delayed (Sandbox) effect on everything that you do. There is nothing like a little time to drive people nuts!!! Is it working!!! Is it Not!! ahhhh !! ahhhh. :)

short term profits, long term disaster

Yes yes yes. Now, how solid is a business plan that requires you to mislead and maintain opaqueness? As long as you have monopolistic powers (due to innovation or monopoly or other means) it works. But in the long term, are you trustworthy? Eventually the very powerful will want in on the secrets, even if only to make themselves feel safer. Think of M$ atempts to keep Windows source code secret, even from a government that was building unmanned armored vehicles loaded with high-powered depleted uranium weoponry -- US army tanks "powered by WindowsNT".

As for lawsuits and such, do they have alternative than to keep quiet? Damned if you say this and damned if you say that. Stay quiet and it is more costly to pursue anything against them... too costly to do when things are still changing quickly. It's an innovation-dependent strategy.

I recall in an interview Sergey's father noted how lawsuits were his son's biggest nightmare, taking up more and more resources, and motivating him to move forward with the IPO (something close to that anyway). All you need are existing business laws and access to data in order to make a case against the Big G. Who said there are only two things to fear: 1.) God and 2.) a jury of your peers? It's the second part that they can make difficult - keep em guessing, but not on purpose, of course ;-)


So do you think SEW carries a penalty? That would be funny as far as linking goes. Google >> SEW(SE awards page) >> (seoinc,bruceclay,zunch,...) In a way it's like the closest way G has helped out the SEO community as PR goes. hehe.


>So do you think SEW carries a penalty?

I know at least one of the other top search engine related sites does.

Sergie was Lucky

Sergei was lucky that he was able to get funded and get to a point where they could hire enough lawyers to fight off all the frivolous lawsuits... Its a real shame that as soon as someone is successful with something there are a mob of people waiting to do everything they can to take a piece of it, at any cost.

As for search engine related sites getting penalized I can tell you that I know of a few. I wont say which ones though. I've learned my lessons from the days of, people dont like having public statements made about their sites being penalized. I've already been threatened with several lawsuits.... I guess the "truth doesnt always set you free" :)

ONe reason

Why would Google not simply ditch the PR on the offending site? Then it clearly wouldn't pass pagerank and could no longer sell it - thus actively discouraging PR selling. Why on earth would they do it in secret?

IMO when people buy PR and expect huge ranking increases, large PR jumps for their site, etc... it can be a major shock when neither ever happens.

1. Single or even a few hundred bucks worth of high PR links just don't do what they used to. That hurts the average webmaster. It especially doesn't do anything when the PR has been blocked on some of them. Hmm, time to drop that strategy after 6 months of paying.

2. Average webmaster buys 3PR6, 2PR7's and a PR8. S/he's expecting a PR7 or a strong 6, now Google says ok, be prepared to wait 3 months to see that jump. Then what happens? 111 days later they find they moved from a PR4 to a whopping PR5 because during those 3 months the PR8 and a PR7 stopped passing PR. Now they fly to WW to bitch in MB's realm about how buying textlinks is a waste of time, etc etc.

We've sold PR9 links only to end up one month where eventually the PR stopped passing and no matter how much warning you gave there's always hell to deal with and always some majorly discouraged webmasters after something like that.

Not especially poignant post, I know, but it's pretty evident that there are plenty of ways in which leting PR show on blocked sites acts to undermine the link brokering business to some extent. You can be sure they're always working on others.

Playing God is not big and it's not clever.

lol - ok ok, I'm (almost) convinced they're doing it and probably this way - now I'm just pissed off with Google and on the offchance they might be reading this here's why....

They're only hurting people who don't deserve to be hurt - SME's with a limited budget who will normally take the advice of an SEO of limited knowledge. I explain to a client at least once a week why I think the advice their SEO is giving may not be the best advice for them currently. Most companies selling SEO services do not read the forums, don't know the latest gossip, have never heard of any of the big names and are a good 12 months behind what you guys are talking about. They don't have their fingers on the pulse at all - some of them haven't even found the artery yet.

Google and SEO's of the level of most TW members live in a different world than the rest of us inhabit :) (yes I'm jealous but I love my clients and I want the best for them even if they have a crappy budget and can't afford any of you). - If a client spends 75% of their annual web marketing budget on buying links they have no way of knowing are worthless that could sink the company. SHOW them it's meaningless and they'll go spend it on improving their site or buying banner ads somewhere. Killing a business or two to make a point may not matter to Google but it matters to the business who gets wiped.

Big companies who can afford you guys will probably be more savvy (I'm assuming from the deafening silence on this you all agree with Jarrod and probably all wish I'd never mentioned it).

So SME's who sell good product, keep the web varied, buy AdWords, actively try to compete within Googles TOC (but to rank anywhere have to delve into a little link buying and rewriting for SE's) are going to be spending their money on things that don't work - while the big players will be paying for better advice/research and outperforming them again.

It's in Googles interests (stated and actual) to level the playing field, not landmine it.

Time Delay Before Demotion Shows

There's little doubt that some key sites have been manually penaltied by Google; they are still tweaking the algo, but some sites boast too loudly about 'beating the system' to be allowed to.

So Google applies a manual penalty; the latest GPR sweep, for example, showed many new-ish directories gaining, while many long established spammy directories were reduced. No rocket science, there.

But the point is, we do not necessarily see evidence of such penalties (eg in Google Toolbar GPR), until months later. Google isn't hiding it, just allowing the info to come out in 'normal time' - no press releases.


There are plenty of "link buying" strategies available that the little guy can afford to do that still work. The two I suggest staying away from are:

1.Buying tons of High PR links in hopes of increasing your pagerank, because you still think pagerank is the big factor in ranking for your keywords. High PR has its place on very large sites and for those who have the budget to take risks. There are still a ton of High PR sites that are not banned, and PR6 and PR7 sites still have a good bang for the buck in the right instance.

2. Buying links on networks that offer 3800 links for 14.95 (or $10) per month, or other similar deals. These networks will offer some advantages but for the long term they are best kept clear of. Why? because every site in the network is interlinked, making it a real easy target.

There are plenty of good link programs out there that are as safe as they are affordable. I personally would stay away from rotating link systems but link-vault looks promising. There are also other link building programs that have more advanced "permanent text links" which provide long term relevant one-way links for a one time cost that are not on a interlinked network and all on different class C's. These program are as safe as reciprocal links but more powerful, just not "too powerful".

Of sitewide links and PR passing

We run some big news related sites, this update we found that google didnot pass any PR to the site that advertise with us, but one of our own new sites after being linked from our own PR 8 sites, got a PR 7.

And the PR on our sites are un-affected. So we have stopped selling links to webmasters buying links specifically to increase their site's PR.

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